Web Design News 27/04/10

Paul Boag

This week: Is the homepage dying? Everything you need to know about HTML5 and CSS3. Solve problems rather than add features. And why you shouldn’t be tied to a process.

Everything you wanted to know about HTML 5 and CSS3

There has been so much talk about HTML5 and CSS3 that you could be forgiven for zoning out.

If you are like me, you know it sounds cool. However you are having trouble keeping up with what exactly it all does and if you can use it now.

Fortunately there are a couple of resources that will help bring clarity to the situation.

The first is a presentation that covers advances in Javascript, HTML and CSS. What makes this presentation unique is that it demonstrates these upcoming technologies as well as explain them.

Presuming you are using a good browser (the author recommends Chrome) you will get to see everything from native video to CSS gradients in action. It also comes with code that you can just copy and paste to get started.

The second resource is a compatibility table that shows browser support for HTML5, CSS3, SVG and other upcoming web technologies.

Sample table from the compatibility application

You can configure the table to only show the technology you are interested in (e.g. CSS3). However the nicest thing is that it provides a judgement about whether you can start using that technology today. It also explains why it has made that judgement and what browser is limiting its adoption.

Both resources are worth a look if you want to start adopting these emerging technologies.

The decline of the homepage?

Gerry McGovern returns this week with another controversial post. This time he is claiming the decline of the homepage.

He begins by quoting some figures on the decline in homepage usage:

In 2003, 39 percent of the page views for a large research website were for the homepage. By 2009, it was down to 19 percent.

Another technology website had roughly 10 percent of page views for the homepage in 2008, and by 2010 it was down to 5 percent. One of the largest websites in the world had 25 percent of visitors come to the homepage in 2005, but in 2010 only has 10 percent.

I have no reason to doubt these figures. However, I am not sure they reflect all websites. That said, I do think the principle stands. As Gerry points out…

Years ago people might have thought about getting to the homepage and then figuring out where to go on the site. Now they will use search or external links to get closer to the place they really want to get to. So, for example, people are becoming less likely to simply type “Toyota” into a search and more likely to type “Toyota recall”.

google search

Does that mean the homepage is no longer important? Not at all. It is still an essential navigational tool which users rely on to orientate themselves on a site.

What this post does demonstrate is that political battles over homepage real estate is pointless. The homepage is no longer as critical as it was.

While on the subject of homepage design, I also wanted to quickly mention ‘How To Develop A Homepage Layout That Sells‘. Although not the best article on the subject it does tackle one aspect well. That is the need to prioritise around objectives, rather than allowing features to continually accrue on the homepage.

The process police

I share a lot of techniques, methodologies and processes on Boagworld. From advice on wireframing to top tips for creating an effective call to action. These posts help us to learn and provides structure within which to work.

However it is important that these kinds of posts (whether on boagworld or elsewhere) are seen as guidelines or advice, not as laws that need to be obeyed.

This is something that is covered in ‘The Process Police‘ a 52weeksofux post.

Image of riot policeman

Ryan Rodrick Beiler, Shutterstock

In this post Joshua refers to people he calls process police. These are people who cling to processes as a kind of mantra for improving their websites…

Process is their crutch. The Process Police believe that if they follow the process to the letter, then they’ll be more successful than if they don’t. They use process as a benchmark for success.

However, in reality the world doesn’t work like that…

No process guarantees success. If there were a process that guaranteed happy users everyone would be using it. But design doesn’t work like that: it’s iterative, responsive, ever-changing. You have to react as much as plan. You have to change your process on the fly to react to the marketplace.

Just remember the next time you read an over confident author talking about the ultimate way to produce a persona, that there is no such thing as a perfect way. Take from the article what works for your site and your users, then leave the rest.

Solve problems rather than add features

Let’s face it we all enjoy something new. Designers like the latest design trends, developers want to play with new technology. Even website owners always have endless ideas for new features.

Unfortunately our enthusiasm for the new can get the better of us sometimes and we focus on that rather than meeting the needs of users.

An article entitled “Does your website add features or solve problems?” addresses this attraction towards the new by encouraging us to focus on solving problems rather than adding new features.


The author sums the problem up perfectly…

This eagerness manifests itself as a superfluous new feature, an implementation that is stimulated by a common misconception that adding more features is a market advantage. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

In reality the solution to users problems often lies in taking stuff away rather than adding it.

The post looks at the benefits of simplifying your website before suggesting some ways you can ‘be a problem solver and not a feature inflator’.

Its a great little post that focuses the mind back on what matters and curbs our enthusiasm for the new.